I Don’t Think I’m Ready But Perhaps I Should Anyhow

This blog was first written about 18 months ago. I was too embarrassed to post it – too embarrassed to admit I wasn’t strong enough to cope. Since then, I regularly come across it, read it and instead of thinking why was I such an idiot about the whole thing? Why was I too embarrassed to post it? I continue to feel embarrassed – its ridiculous! 

So I have decided to be brave and post this blog. It is well out of date but I don’t think it matters. Perhaps somebody who is having a similar psychological fight as I had will read it and feel that they are not alone. Maybe they will see the ridiculousness in not talking about it and actually speak to somebody! 

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I’m doing something that only one person vaguely knows about – at least they are slightly aware of its existence but they don’t actually know I have started to use it. Not even my husband knows about its existence, never mind the fact that I actually have started to use it. This goes against everything that I have tried to maintain since I first got ill. Since I first got ill, I have always said that being open about what was going on, in particular with my husband, was absolutely key. Not being open might lead to distrust and misunderstandings. I have always argued that it was wrong to do anything that might encourage that feeling.

So what am I doing that is so awful I can’t even tell my husband? What is it that I am feeling so unsure of, perhaps even so stupid for doing it that I can’t tell my husband? I do not understand what makes me feel so embarrassed, I do not understand why I don’t want to share what I am doing with anyone. So what am I doing?

While we were on holidays and I had a relapse, one day we walked back from the restaurant and I clung to my husband’s arm, desperate for his support and to help me balance. It dawned on me that day that if I could find something that would help me maintain my energy levels and support me when I was having a bad day, then that surely would be a good thing.

So what have I invested in? I have invested in a walking stick.

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And look just how fun it is! And its my favourite colour!

The fact that it took me three paragraphs to get to the point says it all. I am not sure I am ready to use a walking stick, walking sticks are for old people or invalids – I am not old and I do not feel like an invalid therefore surely that means I do not need one. I am embarrassed at the thought of using it and I am embarrassed at the thought of being seen with it. Does using one mean I have given in – once again – to this illness?

You could, very rightly, argue that if I am using it to walk further on a bad day then it is assisting me in doing more than I should. If I could exercise myself better then yes, using it on a bad day would surely little by little assist me in improving my health. I cannot however exercise myself better so surely anything that enables me to do more is just increasing the intensity of my exercise? I think I am just looking for excuses as to why I shouldn’t use it, rather than looking for justifiable reasons why I should.

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True for so much of my illness, definitely not true in this case. Being too embarrassed to discuss my need for a walking stick preventing me using it. This was not me being strong but me being a coward. 

It has only been used twice, having owned it for more than a week I bought a folding one so I could have it in my bag to use should I be out and suddenly get an unexpected collapse of energy. I have   carried it around for a week every time I went out to use in just those circumstances. On Saturday when we walked across a field to get to a nuclear bunker (don’t ask), I was finding the surface hard going and thought just how much my walking stick might help me. There it was just waiting for me in my bag on my back. We were with friends however and I was embarrassed. Embarrassed because my husband had no idea I had it and embarrassed because then my friends might look at me as sick girl. I seriously overdid it on Saturday and as a consequence paid the price on Sunday.

20140318-080008.jpgIf I had used my walking stick for the entire duration of our outing, would I have overdone it so much? Would it have enabled me to use less energy by providing me with support, balance and indeed a method of propulsion. Perhaps, but I was too scared and embarrassed to try it.

This got me thinking. If I was able to reduce my energy requirements on an everyday basis by use of my walking stick, would this enable me to live more of a life? Walk further, do more? Would this be a good thing? Would this just encourage me to do more than I should? However, if I am using the same amount of energy but using it to do more surely that is a good thing? Again am I just looking for reasons to justify not using it and looking for reasons to prove my justification is ever so wrong. Perhaps the latter but I really do not know.

On Monday, still not quite having recovered from my overdoing it on Saturday, I went for a walk. A walk that included my walking stick. I deliberately kept to the back roads embarrassed by my stick. Ashamed to be seen out with it. At least this was my initial feeling. My walk to my usual churchyard seat took no longer than 6 minutes.  By the time I arrived, I was beginning to get the feeling that it was helping me. I should have been more tired by the walk given my energy levels. My legs should have begun to feel more pain but they were no worse than when I left. Was this the benefit of the walking stick or was it simply that I had under-estimated my energy levels and over-estimated my pain levels?

On my return, I walked back a different route, a route that touched the sides of busy roads, a road where there were pedestrians: people to see me and possibly make comments and wonder why a girl in her mid 30s was using a walking stick. I was very aware of everyone who passed, straining to hear them comment amongst themselves about me. Perhaps I was lucky or perhaps people just didn’t notice or care but I did not hear what I strained for. Silence.

Today Tuesday, the next day, I have tried again. This time walking further than yesterday. Again I didn’t struggle or feel my energy diminishing too quickly. This time I was aware as I crossed rocky ground that it was given me support and helping me balance. With my walking stick it was easier than it would have been without!

20140429-094815.jpgI am still a walking stick virgin however. I still hold it wrong at times and have to adjust it. I dropped it crossing the road until I remember to twist its string around my wrist so it wouldn’t fall. At times I don’t quite get the propulsion right and it lands on the ground at an odd angle. I haven’t learnt how to balance it when I sit down. I also haven’t learnt how to accept that it might be useful to me.

 

How can a walking stick be useful to a girl in her mid 30s who can walk for just over a mile (with a break half way)? How can a walking stick be useful to a girl in her mid 30s who doesn’t walk with a limp or need to balance against things? That is unless I am having a bad day.

For me using a walking stick is still a big experiment. Will I continue to use it? I don’t know – I hope I will if it consistently helps me. Will I tell my husband? I guess I have to. What will he think? I don’t know but I know he will at least wear a mask of support. I think he will think that if I am finding it useful then it is a great thing to do. I wonder whether he will find it embarrassing to be seen with me? Could I blame him if he didn’t? Hardly, I am not exactly embarrassment free at all of this, now am I?

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Gillian above (with her own walking stick) – my inspiration while I was sick and a never-ending source of support. She would have given me a right telling off if she had known I had a stick and wasn’t using it!

My friend, Gillian, was the first and only person I have ever discussed using a walking stick with. She uses one herself and even offered to lend me one of hers to try it out. I was embarrassed by the conversation – I think perhaps by the very need to have it in the first place. She was supportive and encouraging. She too was young and understood what it felt like to start to use one – she had started to use hers at 18! Her encouragement enabled me to at least buy one. I would like to think that one day I will be as brave as her and see only the positive reasons for using a walking stick. The negative reasons are surely just a matter of perception.

So I did eventually tell my husband who completely unsurprisingly was utterly supportive of me! 

I didn’t use it all the time but I always had it on me ready to pull out when things got difficult and I used it all day on a bad day. A walking stick categorically helped me! A month or so after I started to use it, I was re-diagnosed and given treatment that enabled me to make rapid improvement – very quickly after this the walking stick was no longer required. 

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In hindsight, I can only wonder why I made such a big deal about using one! Nobody looked at me funny, nobody laughed and in truth I don’t think any strangers actually cared. I should have used the inspiration of Gillian more – she is a girl who just gets on with things and doesn’t allow fear or worry stop her. Perhaps although I am now living in India and while not healthy, a lot healthier, this blog should act as a reminder that sometimes to be strong you need to accept your weaknesses and not let them hold you back.

8 thoughts on “I Don’t Think I’m Ready But Perhaps I Should Anyhow”

  1. Why be ashamed. Proper walkers use sticks all the time. Many people even very elderly say “can’t be giving in etc etc” . But, as a farmer’s daughter one of the rites of passage was having your father cut you a longer stick because you were growing up towards a proper stick.
    Only problem I find is they kill my shoulders.
    Isn’t it wonderful how well you are now. Love mum

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  2. Similar feelings, here… And yes, like you, I have often considered using a cane myself (my husband does have one). Instead, what I have been doing is, whenever I go to a a supermarket or a shop, using a shopping cart as a support, while I do the shoppings. This way I am able to walk thru the whole shop without much pain.

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  3. I can happily report that I see healthy-looking young women with canes walking around my town all the time. When I’m in my car it makes me want to roll down my window and yell out, “Hey, let’s be friends,” because I use one too.

    If I’m going shopping I use my seatcane. Whenever I use it, people stop me and say, “That is so cool, can you demonstrate how to use it?” and I happily do. Then they say, “Thank you for showing me, that would work great for my mom.” And when I tell them to just Google it to buy one, they’re so genuinely grateful. I never expect to get this positive attention, it always takes me by surprise, but between you and me, it makes me feel like the belle of the ball, and it’s so nice, because no one’s focusing on me, they’re focusing on how I can help them, and it feels good. I have no problem sitting on it right in the middle of stores and in queues, and no one has ever made me feel funny about it. Believe me, I’m super sensitive to negative energy, so I understand how it can be scary to start using one.

    As far as walking with canes, I find my legs hurt way less once I get home. If I don’t use them, I’m in more pain when I’m out, and once I’m home, I’m in agony for the rest of the night.

    I’ve recently “graduated” to using a wheelchair when I go out shopping now, and I love it. I don’t have the feet supports attached, because I can propel myself around in it better using my feet. I even push a shopping cart around in stores while I’m in it and can shop by myself without any help from my husband. I stand up when I need to and no one has said anything negative or given me a bad look. If anything, everyone’s nicer to me than when I’m without it. I watched YouTube videos of how to shop with a wheelchair to learn how to do it, and then when I tried it, to my surprise, it ended up being really easy for me to do. Probably because I have full use of my legs and feet, and that gave me a new awareness about how lucky I am, even though I’m disabled. I look really young and healthy btw, and I’ve received a lot of negativity about being disabled throughout my life, but when I use a stick or my chair, I get respect, which is nice, and I get to save my energy and be in less pain.

    Use your props with pride, people. 🙂

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    1. Fantastic!!! Wish I had read this 18 months ago!!! I’m lucky now that my health has improved so much I no longer need a prop but I am aware that things can always change. If it does, I really hope that I’m as brave and as strong as you. Go girl!

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      1. Thank you, Karen. I have no doubt that you will feel better about it if you ever have the need to use them again. The more of us who look well that get out there with props (when we can), the more commonplace it will be.

        I really like your blog. I just found it in Google tonight and I’m enjoying reading your archives – there are a lot of titles I can relate to, or that I find intriguing. It’s always nice to read how others are dealing with the vicissitudes of living with ME. Thank you for blogging. 🙂

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  4. 🙂 I just tried finding shopping from a wheelchair in YouTube, and I found that it helps to type in “how to push a shopping cart while in a wheelchair”, just in case someone comes across these comments who wants to try it.

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How do you feel about this topic? Do any of its ideas resonate with you? I'd love to know your thoughts! K

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